Charleston is poised to launch a new park on the upper Ashley River that will dress up an area that’s now mostly mud, rocks and muck.

And where there was once a fear of criminals gathering and trash being dumped, leaders hope to draw families, joggers and fishermen.

Charleston officials are seeking bids to construct what’s being called Northbridge Park, covering the West Ashley footprint both surrounding and underneath the North Bridge.

When finished, the site will feature a 200-foot pier jutting into the river, space for crabbing and fishing, and a kayak-canoe launch. Estimated cost: between $1.2 million and $1.4 million.

Charleston’s capital projects director, Don Brown, said when City Council signs off on the eventual contract award, probably in September, the site could be open and operating as soon as next spring.

Other features will include space for about 18 parking places, along with picnic tables, decorative trees and a water fountain. A biking path also will be done in cooperation with Charleston County that will link the park to the rest of West Ashley’s recreation paths, Brown said.

Vehicular access will be allowed from both sides of S.C. Highway 7 with a paved road that loops under the bridge.

“This is going to be a significant improvement for this area coming from any direction,” said Brown, who called the park a potential “gateway” into the West Ashley portion of the city.

The park will not include a boat landing or a boat ramp for motor boats.

Councilman Aubry Alexander, whose district includes the site, expects the park to become popular as soon as it opens, given its current use as an unofficial recreation spot.

“On a good weekend, there’s a lot of people down there fishing,” he said. Putting a park there has been envisioned at least since 1999.

One of the safety features to be included will be a live-feed video-monitoring system that will allow authorities to follow activity under the bridge. Charleston police and the state Department of Transportation want the camera as a security measure, officials said.

The area under the bridge has been known to attract squatters. It also has been used as a dump for household refuse and other items, with cleanup crews finding couches, chairs and TV sets, Alexander said.

Also among the project’s backers is Councilman Keith Waring, who said his father used to take him fishing in the area when he was younger. Making the site into a recognized public park further illustrates the city’s push to ensure open access for all, he said.

A visit to the site this week shows that the work ahead would be extensive. Access now is via dirt paths that are pockmarked, hilly and uneven.

James Island resident Patrick Mosier and his son Cooper, 12, were crabbing in the area this week, wading in about 30 feet from shore. They visit the site often, and both agreed the planned park would enhance the experience that goes with being waterside.

“It probably would keep it cleaner, that’s for sure,” Patrick Mosier said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.